Doctors have said for years that saturated fat in people's diets is harmful. In the past, they have advised a low-fat diet as the most effective way to reduce heart disease risk. People took this to heart in the 80s and 90s and overhauled their diets.
Different researchers now say that saturated fats may not be as dangerous as we once thought and can even be a part of a well-balanced diet. They also say to replace fats with unsaturated versions for better heart health.
Based on many years of conflicting information, you may be understandably confused.
What Foods Contain Saturated Fats?
Saturated fats are found primarily in animal products and tropical oils. There are also smaller amounts of it in other foods like vegetable oils, soy, nuts, and seeds. Saturated fat-rich foods include:
- All meats.
- Butter. One tablespoon (13.6 grams) of butter has seven grams of saturated fat and 0.5 grams of trans fat!
- Cheese. One ounce (28 grams) of mozzarella cheese contains three grams of saturated fat.
- Coconut and palm oil. One tablespoon (13.6 grams) of coconut oil contains 12 grams of saturated fat, and one tablespoon (13.6 grams) of palm oil has seven grams.
- Milk. One cup (240 ml) of whole milk has nine grams of saturated fat.
What Are Different Types of Fats?
There are three main types of fat, each having different effects on your health. The three types are saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat. Unsaturated fats have a beneficial or neutral effect on heart disease and overall health. Saturated fats are neutral or negative, and trans fats cause numerous detrimental health effects.
How Do Saturated Fats Affect Health?
A teenage girl who is moderately active and consuming 2,100 calories per day (recommendation for her activity level) should eat no more than 126 calories (14 grams at six percent) from saturated fat. For a moderately active teenage boy, eating 2,600 calories each day (also the recommendation for his activity level) should not eat more than 156 calories (17 grams at six percent) from saturated fat.
Individual nutrients are not to blame for diseases. Humans do not consume just fat, protein, or carbohydrates. Macro and micronutrients are obtained together by consuming a variety of different foods.
We cannot attribute disease progression to individual macronutrients. It is your diet as a whole that truly matters. It is advisable to focus on eating a generally nutrient-rich and balanced diet instead of focusing on the exclusion of certain foods.
Why is There Controversy Over Saturated Fats?
Saturated fats are prevalent in animal products and tropical oils. Recent studies show that processed and sugary foods may pose considerably more risk than saturated fat. Although its intake may increase heart disease risk factors, research has not made significant links between saturated fat and heart disease. Some studies do indicate that it may negatively affect other health aspects.
Do Saturated Fats Have A Place In A Healthy Diet?
An optimal diet should be rich – not limiting – in many plant-based, nutritious foods, regardless of macronutrient composition.
Saturated fats have been considered unhealthy for decades. Yet, current research supports that nutritious high-fat foods can be a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Although nutrition research usually focuses on individual macronutrients, it is far more helpful to focus on your whole diet for overall health and disease prevention. Instead of focusing on a low-fat or high-fat diet, it is crucial to ensure you get enough of all the essential macro and micronutrients daily. We need more well-designed studies to fully understand the complex relationship between individual macronutrients and overall health, including saturated fat. However, following a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods is optimal for your health. How we eat today will affect our future health. We should be kind to our future selves by starting these healthy habits early in life. If you are concerned about getting the right balance of macronutrients for your health, you should speak with a doctor or dietitian.